Yellow-crowned night-heron

(Nyctanassa violacea)


Yellow-crowned night-heron IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The yellow-crowned night-heron is a big-headed and thick-billed heron which is more slender than the common night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). It reaches a length of 61 cm and a body-weight of 625 g. The head of adults is black with a white to buffy forehead, crown and bar behind the eyes. Neck and underparts are grey. The feathers of the mantle are dark grey with silvery edgings. During the breeding season, the cheeks and forehead turn more buffy, and long white occipital plumes develop.

The yellow-crowned night-heron forages singly. It is more active by day, is less social and more focussed on saltwater habitats than the black-crowned night heron.

Yellow-crowned night-heron nest in single pairs or loose small groups in trees overhanging water. They lay 2-5 pale blue-green eggs.

Crayfish are the preferred food of the yellow-crowned night-heron. Fish are rarely taken. Regionally amphibians mussels and insects may be an important component of the species' diet.

Did you know?
that, although globally rated "Least Concern", this species is considered threatened in parts of its range because it is particularly vulnerable to local habitat disturbance or loss? In Pennsylvania, for instance, the largest nesting colony representing more than half the state’s known breeding population, is on a small river island. The integrity of this site and nearby shallow water feeding areas are threatened by a proposed dam. Degradation of water quality, along with loss of the primary food source – crayfish – is an everpresent threat.


Class AVES
Suborder ARDEAE
Name (Scientific) Nyctanassa violacea
Name (English) Yellow-crowned night-heron
Name (French) Bihoreau violacé
Name (German) Krabbenreiher
Name (Spanish) Chicuaco enmascarado, Garza nocturna sabacú, Guanabá Real
Local names Costa Rica: Martinete Cabecipinto
Portuguese: Savacu
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Terry Foote



Range From south-eastern USA through Central America to northern and north-eastern South America. Also in the Caribbean and on Galapagos.
Habitat Many types of habtat, but most typically frequents mangroves, large cypress swamps, tidal mudflats, marshes, riverbanks, lakes, lagoons and rocky shores. Habitually found along the coast, but also inland on margins of rivers, freshwater lakes, pools and reservoirs.
Wild population Not threatened. Common in the USA. Has spread northwards since the 1930's. Common also along the Pacific coast of Panama, and probably also of Colombia. They were exterminated from Bermuda in 1940, but have been successfully reintroduces.
Zoo population 37 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Yellow-crowned night-heron


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 17 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Googie man

Why do zoos keep this animal

The yellow-crowned night heron is not a threatened species, and zoos do not maintain coordinated breeding programmes. It is mainly kept for educational purposes and for promoting wetland conservation, ideally in mixed exhibits (walk-thru aviaries)